It involves a Green Bay Wisconsin metal and plastic manufacturer that fired a group of Hmong and Hispanic workers over their English skills, “even though those skills were not needed to perform their jobs,” according to the feds. More importantly, forcing employees to speak English in the U.S. violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, says the Obama administration.
Here’s the twisted explanation from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that enforces the nation’s workplace discrimination laws; the Civil Rights Act protects employees from discrimination based on national origin, which includes the linguistic characteristics of a national origin group. Therefore, according to this reasoning, foreigners have the right to speak their native language even during work hours at an American company that requires English.
Requirements of English fluency and so-called English only rules are often implemented to make what is really discrimination appear acceptable, says the government attorney handling this case. “But superficial appearances are not fooling anyone,” he assures. “When speaking English fluently is not, in fact, required for the safe and effective performance of a job, nor for the successful operation of the employer’s business, requiring employees to be fluent in English usually constitutes employment discrimination on the basis of national origin — and thus violates federal law.”
Under President Obama the EEOC has taken a number of unprecedented actions to protect foreigners in the workplace, including illegal immigrants. In 2009 the agency issued a controversial order making a workplace English rule illegal. The directive came after the EEOC bullied a national healthcare firm to pay nearly half a million dollars to settle a discrimination lawsuit in which the government alleged that Hispanic workers were punished for speaking Spanish.
The agency has been on a roll ever since, taking legal action against businesses across the country accusing them of everything from discriminating against minorities for running criminal background and credit checks to discriminating against Muslims for not allowing hijabs on the job. The criminal background and credit checks disproportionately exclude blacks from hire, according to EEOC lawsuits against several companies. Businesses that forbid Muslim women from wearing a hijab at work violate religious rights guaranteed under the nation’s civil rights laws even when all head coverings are banned for all employees, the EEOC asserts
Last fall an Obama-appointed federal judge handed the administration a major victory, ruling that a Muslim woman’s civil rights were indeed violated by an American clothing retailer that didn’t allow her to wear the head scarf as required by her religion. The EEOC had filed the lawsuit against retail giant Abercrombie & Fitch, accusing it of religious discrimination for firing 19-year-old Umme-Hani Khan for wearing a hijab at a northern California store. The company, which focuses on hip casual wear for consumers aged 18 to 22, has a policy against head covers of any kind for its employees.